South Tahoe girls soccer falls to Truckee 3-2 in regional championship, clinches state berth
TRUCKEE, Calif. — A single goal was all that separated the South Tahoe and Truckee girls soccer teams between their two regular-season meetings. So it was only fitting that one would earn the Division I-A Northern Region title by the same slim margin.
In front of a large crowd representing both schools at Riverview Sports Park on Saturday, Truckee sophomore Zareli Villa snapped a 2-2 tie in the 65th minute, and the Wolverines held on for a 3-2 victory and north’s No. 1 seed in the state championship tournament.
“To me, what was different about this time is that Truckee beat us in every phase of the game,” Vikings coach Jeremy Evans said. “It’s kind of ironic because I think we’re the better team in every phase of the game.”
Top-seeded South Tahoe (19-3-1) entered unbeaten in 17 matches against league opponents, including a 4-0 win over fourth-seeded Lowry in the regional semifinals Friday — the Vikings defeated Truckee 1-0 on Oct. 17 and tied the Wolverines 1-1 on Sept. 9. South Tahoe, who has won state titles three of the past four years, had not lost since Sept. 25 against undefeated Douglas.
“We were at our worst today. Truckee deserved it — kudos to Travis,” Evans said. “Our toughness wasn’t there. I’m going to take responsibility for that. I must not have had them prepared.”
South Tahoe jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just three minutes into Saturday’s regional championship when freshman Annie Brejc cleaned up the rebound of a corner kick. The lead, however, was short lived.
Truckee junior Kayla Redner fired a 20-yard free kick that banged off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal in the 15th minute. About a minute later, senior Marcelle Reynaud put Truckee up 2-1 — the ball trickled past the grip of South Tahoe goalie Alicia Rea and Reynaud kicked it into the open net.
“We got that first goal and then Truckee came back on us. We thought we had the game won without having to work for it,” Evans said.
After stern halftime talks by their coaches, the Vikings responded with the equalizer in the 45th minute, as senior Kendall Eagan beat a defender on the right wing and drilled an angled shot into the far upper corner.
Play went back and forth throughout the second half. But it was second-seeded Truckee (18-3-2) who managed to break the stalemate.
In the 65th minute, Villa got her foot on a loose ball directly in front of the South Tahoe goal and slipped a shot past Rea and a cluster of defenders. Amid the excitement of the moment, Villa forgot just how the play developed.
“I really don’t remember. I just remember it going into the goal,” she said.
Truckee’s defense and midfield held the Vikings in check the remaining 15 minutes, and senior goalie Paulina Thrasher made several clean saves to preserve the victory.
“They just wanted it,” said Truckee coach Travis Spencer, whose Wolverines eked out a 2-1, double-overtime win against third-seeded Spring Creek in their semifinal Friday. “They showed up today. I’ve noticed the last half of the season they’re all about never giving up, and they proved it.”
In the semifinals, South Tahoe punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 4-0 win over Lowry. The Vikings scored two goals in each half in their first true test since losing senior forward Jordyn Dion to a season-ending injury.
“We’re always happy to make it to state — but I just felt the girls were unnecessarily tense,” Evans said. “They just were not playing the right way — we didn’t come out like league champions and we didn’t come out confident or composed.”
Brejc opened the scoring on Friday with a 14th-minute goal against the Buckaroos, and added a second goal four minutes into the second half. Senior Maia Bickert and junior Grace Schouten also scored in the win — the Vikings put the match away with a pair of goals in the first 15 minutes after the break.
Both South Tahoe and Truckee advanced to the NIAA Division I-A state championship, which will be contested at Heritage Park in Henderson, Nev., this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14-15.
“It’s never good to lose to your rival in the regional championship, but in a way it’s a mulligan because we have another chance,” Evans said. “I made my players look me in the eye and I told them, ‘If you don’t believe that we can go 2-0 next week, I’m not going to let you on the bus.’”
Truckee will open with a semifinal against the south’s No. 2 seed, Sunrise Mountain (Las Vegas), on Friday at 6 p.m. South Tahoe will face top southern seed Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas) — a 1-0 winner over Sierra Vista in the southern regional final — in a semifinal Friday, also at 6 p.m. Winners square off for the state championship Saturday at noon.
Note: Tribune sports editor Anthony Gentile contributed to this report.
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